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TBR elects Haslam chair, eliminates graduation fees at community colleges

The Tennessee Board of Regents voted to make it less expensive for students to graduate from the state’s 13 community colleges and elected Governor Bill Haslam chairman of the board at its quarterly meeting held at Northeast State Community College March 25.

While other incidental fees may be increasing at schools across the state, Tennessee’s community colleges have decided to eliminate their graduation fees. The move will encourage more students to cap their community college experience with an associate’s degree before transferring to a four-year university.

The fee change is just one way community colleges are supporting the goals of the Complete College Tennessee Act passed by the state legislature last year, which pushes the need for more adults with college degrees.

“The completion agenda is our board’s primary focus,” said TBR Chancellor John Morgan. “We have and will continue to support our institutions’ efforts to retain and graduate more students.” The board has embraced the CCTA as the strategic driver for TBR schools in the years ahead.

At the same time, the TBR approved a range of campus-specific fee increases submitted by five of six TBR universities and 10 community colleges. The increases averaged less than half a percent overall, and are separate from the maintenance and tuition fees which are set by the TBR at its quarterly meeting in June.

Some incidental fee increases will allow some institutions to address student retention and graduation efforts. At Tennessee Tech University, for example, students will pay $38 more each semester to fund a student success course designed to increase retention. At Austin Peay, freshmen on academic probation and students returning from academic suspension will pay a $120 fee to help fund the Promoting Academic Student Success course.

Other approved increases will help institutions address documented needs, including campus access fees, student activities fees, health service fees, parking fees, and specialized course fees at a variety of schools. A complete list of approved fee increases is available on the TBR website at tbr.edu .

Two new programs were approved for the Tennessee Technology Centers. The TTC at Jackson will implement a new truck driving program and the TTC Elizabethton will add a nurse assistant program to meet the workforce development needs of the surrounding communities.

The board also heard a report describing the compensation challenges its campuses face. The schools report concern for salary scales below market value hindering recruitment and retention of well-qualified faculty and staff. The last general salary increase for higher education occurred in July 2007, while insurance costs have risen substantially, placing an especially difficult burden on the lowest paid employees.

Regents also approved the strategic plan, institutional planning targets and mission statements for the TBR universities and community colleges. The plan focuses on access, student success, quality and resourcefulness/efficiency, all efforts that lead to addressing the goals of the Complete College Tennessee Act.

Governor Haslam, who said he plans to participate, outlined his charge to the board to be engaged in raising the number of graduates in the state.

“As we look at the challenges facing Tennessee, the schools represented by the Tennessee Board of Regents are critical in what we’re trying to do,” Haslam emphasized.

He recognized the partnerships TBR’s universities, community colleges and technology centers have created to promote research, workforce and economic development in many areas across the state.

The TBR is the nation’s sixth largest higher education system, governing 46 post-secondary educational institutions. The TBR system includes six universities, 13 two-year colleges and 27 technology centers, providing programs in 90 of Tennessee’s 95 counties to more than 200,000 students.

The College System of Tennessee is the state’s largest public higher education system, with 13 community colleges, 27 colleges of applied technology and the online TN eCampus serving approximately 100,000 students. The system is governed by the Tennessee Board of Regents.